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How Do You Even Fix Yahoo?

Posted by on September 7, 2011 at 12:12 am

Don’t you remember when Yahoo! was the shining knight in a sea of failed dot-com companies? Y’know, back when people thought it would be profitable to do everything through the internet, like grocery shopping? As a contemporary to the dial-up service providers like America Online, it served as a one-stop shop for basically anything. Wanted to know the weather? How your stocks were doing? Sports? Yahoo did it. But time has not been kind to Yahoo as today, the company’s board of directors ousted Carol Bartz, their latest CEO. Their previous chief exec and co-founder, Jerry Yang, was removed not long after turning down a lucrative buyout offer from Microsoft. The problem the company really faces however, is what their business is and what it needs to be, something Bartz couldn’t even explain.

Yahoo’s approach to, well, everything, may have worked in 1999, but it looks amazingly old-fashioned in 2011. Their core competencies have also floundered. Google stole search and then decided not to partner with them. Huffington Post, TMZ, and a variety of targeted blogs have covered editorials. For some reason, they still get exclusive trailers online, but broadcast them in crunchy standard definition quality. What a waste. Despite all this, Yahoo still remains the fourth largest web site on the internet, so what does Yahoo even do at this point?

Retarget the site? Do they need to cover everything? Do we need a single web page for everything that doesn’t really excel at anything? What if you go the Aol way and just become a big media site? Can Yahoo even compete?

Develop new applications? Or applications period? At one point, the yodeling monster had thought about purchasing Foursquare and even Facebook before backing off (or being kindly rebuffed). The company has spent a lot of time not doing much and developing tech that hasn’t gone anywhere. In a developing post-PC world, Yahoo is still stuck to browser windows and RSS feeds. Is there a future for portable Yahoo content?

Re-brand? Obviously the name still has a lot of clout, but maybe more in the sense that GeoCities did rather than Apple does. When you’re this out-moded, how many people are you scaring away by keeping that old branding in the stable? Even America Online got hip superfast by going AWOL with Aol and they’re still struggling to squeeze every last cent from their page views.

There’s a lot of questions here and no easy answers. The next CEO of the web portal obviously needs some vision because the company’s needing it, fast. Is there something drastic in the pipes for the company? It seems like nothing short of reinvention will be satisfactory.

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